Monday, April 11, 2016

M-Cubed for 4.11.2016

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for April Eleventh, Two-Thousand Sixteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Double digits in April and halfway to May! Here in Ohio, we have had a cold winter blast over the past week but the extended forecast is looking pretty good. Still, that 3-4" of snow on my car over the weekend was downright offensive! Our community is lined with gorgeous pear trees that bloom white in the Spring. I'm fearful that the cold snap and 21 degrees yesterday morning may have ruined a lot of beauty for this season.

- If you didn't read my CrossFit Games Open recap and you'd like to dig through my musings that cover 5 weeks in March, click here. It was a great time and was a great indicator of progress over the past year.

- Along the same subject of CrossFit, April 1st brought some many changes for my wife and I. Since November 4, 2014, we have been members at two CrossFit gyms but on the 1st of this month, we took it all home and now have a garage gym. It all came together, starting on April 2nd as we took a road trip 2 1/2 hours south to the headquarters of Rogue Fitness that is known worldwide as the manufacturer and supplier of everything necessary to take on such a project. One full SUV later and lunch at the Columbus Brewing Company, we headed back home and began the work. Today, the last component arrives. The bumper plates finally arrive from Texas and we can finally do all that we want. From plyo boxes to a rower to a full rig that lets us do everything from pull-ups to dips to back squats, front squats, and bench pressing...we're done. While I'm no coach, I feel I have enough knowledge now to do it safely and still move forward. Plus, there is a plethora of online resources to continually glean from. Still, we will miss our friends that we've gained and will certainly be inviting them over to throw down. For now, it's going to be us motivating each other through each day and workout. If you want to follow the progress and occasional posts about the workout, follow me on Instagram...handle is "RTRSBM".

- I don't mean to keep tooting my own horn, but ICYMI (in case you missed it), I penned another entry dubbed "Faith, Fitness and Family" back on March 23rd. It might strike a chord with you.

- Hard to believe it's been 5 years. 5 years yesterday, I boarded a plane and hugged my family goodbye, en route to Afghanistan. Most of you know that I blogged every day of that deployment in a raw online "journal." I later published that into a book (only a few of them). In memory of yesterday, Day 1, I wanted to have a throwback of sorts and re-publish those musings here. (tissue warning!)

Day 1

Leaving Kansas was knowingly going to be the toughest day in a long time. My family had surprised me at Outback Steakhouse the night before so I was well fed, well loved, and ready to go this morning. Sitting bedside with Tin Man and Scarecrow last night was tough. We had been counting down the days as we prayed together each evening and as we sat bedside, hand in hand with the both of them, I paused...for probably an eternal minute or so, trying not to cry. "This is it. After this, we'll talk and Skype/FaceTime." We did shed some tears and Tin Man squeezed my arm so tight. We prayed probably the longest prayer ever together. We prayed for Dorothy, them, me, and all the other servicemen and women away from their families. A kiss, a hug...goodnight. 

This morning came quickly and I brewed my last pot of Italian espresso until my return. That, a bowl of Kashi cereal, and I even unloaded the dishwasher, took the trash out, and washed a small batch of dirty dishes. The clock ticked by quickly and before I knew it, I released the house felines and they woke up the kids. Mental re-check of the packed bag and we headed to the airport, set to leave Kansas for Oz. 

Arriving at the airport, my whole family was there again, just like at Outback along with Dorothy's parents and a few close friends. Even a few "monkeys" (think "Oz") made a few colored signs for my travel to Oz. As time drew close, we all gathered in a circle and my brother prayed for me and my family and I made my way around, hugging everyone. I must say, I was doing pretty good but that was strategic. I knew when my manly armor would be broken. Tin Man and Scarecrow possessed that ability so I saved them for last. As I knelt down in front of Scarecrow, her eyes were welling with tears and they streamed down her face. "Daddy..." I grabbed her and that was it, we were sharing tears. "I need you to do two things for me. Can you do that?" I asked her. "One: can you pray for me? Second, can you be a big helper to your mom?" A confirmed "yes" to both requests and some reassuring words that we'll talk often and even see each other over the internet. I don't know how long I knelt there but after one last hug, I let her go....and turned around and grabbed the Tin Man and picked her up. She had talked about how tough she was going to be on the way to the airport. Her leather-bound toughness that her dad "had" had crumbled, too, and she cried on my shoulder. We had the same conversation as I had with Scarecrow but with a third request: "Be a leader for Scarecrow. You're the older one, you're the leader and she looks up to you. Can you do that?" "Yes, Dad." "And remember...we're a team. We'll all be OK." More hugs, more tears, and I let her go... Dorothy, she was next and last. I have to say, she was staying strong. I saw her eyes getting red but she was fighting the good fight. A few goodbye kisses, some hugs, and we said goodbye. "We'll be fine," she said. Through security and to the gate with one last wave across the security access point's head and that was it. It would take another 15 minutes or so for those tears to dry up. 

I won't bore you with flight info for this day on the Yellow Brick Road, except to say that I sat next to very nice lady on the first flight. Her name was Jennifer and she works at a church near my home. She asked where I was going and after telling her "Oz," we talked about that and a whole bunch of things for the rest of the flight. Oz culture, customs and our mission over there and a lot of really good talk about prejudices that exist in this world, our country, and how it all compares to Oz culture and the radical side of it. (yes, that was a bit of a run-on sentence but I couldn't figure out how to make it right! I wasn't an English major, ya know!) After a 5 hour layover at my first stop, I ended up at the first stop on journey to Oz where I'll remain for about a week. 

Here at this stop on the Yellow Brick Road, I will be checked to make sure my medical record is squared away and get the beloved small pox vaccine. They will basically prick me 15 times with a prong-like needle. From what I hear, it's the most non-enjoyable shot of them all and hurts bad. I will also sit through a bunch of briefs that cover pay/entitlements, family matters, and other misc. items. I will also be fit for and issued the uniform that I'll wear in Oz. Since there are no Navy bases in Oz, this sailor nor any sailor wears a sailor's uniform over there. We wear the uniform of the service who operates the base. So that's what I'll be issued. After all the boxes are checked and my uniforms are issued, I'll continue along the Road. 

So as this day winds down and alone time sets in, I can verify with you that Day 1 is one of, if not the very hardest days of the deployment. I can easily crawl inside my head and get very upset or distract myself by finding something to watch on TV. The base where I'm at even offers a theater with current movies...for free. Perhaps later this week I will do that...Black Swan, Kings Speech...we'll see. I did get to FaceTime with my family tonight and I saw smiles in place of tears which was nice. I ran across this quote today: "Being happy doesn't mean everything is perfect; it means you've decided to see beyond the imperfections and enjoy every day." What a great quote for a day where we could all hang our head in doom-n-gloom. Instead, we can decide to be happy.

- Want to read more? Here is Day 2. Be warned, though. There are 208 of them! 

- We had a family movie afternoon yesterday as it remained cold and blustery outside. Have you seen "In the Heart of the Sea?" It's the story of Moby Dick. If you're a fan of Thor and the Marvel movie series, you'll be pleased to know the same actor who plays Thor is the lead actor here. It was a great movie and one we all enjoyed. So do you think the great white whale was real?!

- Ever heard of General Mattis? He is a former commander of Central Command, the military arm that leads our fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Well, there is a real movement to propel him into the debauchery known as our presidential election this year. Here is a quick read to bring you up to speed on who he is and the movement afoot to make this a reality. No've got my vote, General.

- There was a time not too long ago where I ran my age on my birthday. I turn 43 inside of a week and only a few short years ago, I was still running my age that day. It was a tour, of sorts, around my county where I smelled blooming trees, ran along the Cuyahoga River, and stopped to see a few friends along the way. Oh, how times have changed! To think of running 43 miles right now is downright painful. I could do it...I could. But, the desire has left me. Instead, my bride and I plan to escape away and just enjoy each other's company for 24+ hours uninterrupted. Walking, laughing, sleeping in, and just "being." Here's to year 44 about to kick off!

- A short while ago, my "little" rescue dog decided to snuggle in for a nap. Mind you, she is about 45 pounds, extremely athletic and strong, and some are afraid of her (for no reason!). Still, she has a soft heart and loves to curl up for a nap like the rest of her family. This is me laying on the couch and the photo is taken directly above us looking down. She just kept digging and digging into my chest! LOL!

- Before I leave you today, I just want to mention a workout I did yesterday, totally unexpected and unplanned which requires no gym equipment of any kind. Just you and a determination to hang in there and stick it out. It's a Hero WOD (workout of the day) named "Maupin." It is named for SSG Matt Maupin who was captured on Good Friday, April 9th, in 2004 and later executed. His friends and fellow soldier came up with this workout and submitted it to CrossFit HQ who picked it up and officially pushed out this workout yesterday. As soon as I watched his story as told by his fellow soldier, I had to do it. Whether you do it or not, I highly recommend taking a few moments to watch the video. If you feel inspired to honor Matt afterwards, here is the workout:

  • 4 Rounds for Time
  • 800m run
  • 49 pushups
  • 49 situps
  • 49 air squats

I finished in 42min, 10sec. Rest in peace, brother.

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Recap: 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games Open

In March 2015, I registered for my first "Open" only 4 months after starting CrossFit. I was super weak, lacked flexibility in just about every direction, but loved the worldwide nature of the event and since one of the main purposes of the Open is to see where you've progressed year to year, I considered it a good baseline to launch from. The "Open" is the beginning of the CrossFit Games that ends in Carson, CA where the "Fittest on Earth" will be crowned for men and women. It all begins, though, in gyms and garages across the globe where anyone can compete and see where they rank in their state, region, country and worldwide. For the 99%+ of us, we do the Open for 5 weeks and then sit back and watch Regionals and the Games in CA.

Last year, I joined friends at All Heart CrossFit in Kent, OH and gave it my all. I looked back on my blog and didn't do a recap but honestly, there wasn't much to tell. I'll give you the highlights: I couldn't do a pull-up without a band, I couldn't do toes-to-bar, I couldn't do chest-to-bar, the most I could get over my head was 135 pounds, and my overall strength and flexibility was just awful. Things like overhead squats and squat cleans were just horrendous. I was a newbie in the finest sense of the word but giving it my all and having fun with it. This past February, my coach at my new CrossFit gym at CrossFit 881 encouraged participation. I wasn't going to, actually. I was only going to do the workouts and not pay the $20 to actually record scores and see how'd I'd fare the globe over. But he was right...I liked the spirit of competition and that simple logging of a score would be a motivator. It was going to be me vs. me and that was perfect. I gave up my 20 bucks and looked forward to week #1.

Each Thursday night at 8pm, CrossFit HQ streams the workout LIVE on YouTube. To the one not familiar with CrossFit or the Open, this may not seem like a big deal but I assure you...there is all kinds of hoopla and anticipation that surround it. Admittedly in our family, we gathered around either the TV or our iPhones each Thursday night to listen to Dave Castro, director of the CrossFit Games give the announcement and watch two elite athletes do it. The Open has a repuation for pushing people outside of their comfort zones and often, it introduces something not so common for many athletes. This year was no different and on Thursday night, Feb. 25th, Dave Castro announced "16.1." 16.1 was a 20min AMRAP (as many rounds and reps as possible) of:

  • 25ft overhead walking lunge with 95lb barbell
  • 8 bar-facing burpees
  • 25ft overhead walking lunge with 95lb barbell
  • 8 chest-to-bar pull-ups

95lb Overhead Walking Lunges
Overhead walking lunges aren't too uncommon but doing them with a barbell plus two 25lb plates on them is. For the athlete who lacks flexibility, it's even worse. BUT, unlike a year ago, I can do chest-to-bar pull-ups so I was totally down with doing this. Saturday came and our gym did it together. It went pretty well and I ended up with 109 reps. Unfortunately, I had to drop the barbell twice during those 25ft stretches which definitely cost me reps. Over the next day or so, I considered doing it again, knowing that if I could do the walking lunges unbroken, I'd be able to improve. On Monday, I did exactly that and with 3 minutes to go, I hit 109 reps! I didn't break any of the lunges up and I took less rest breaks between chest-to-bar pull-ups. I ended up with 125 reps and couldn't be happier!

Rx vs. Scaled: In CrossFit programming/workouts, "Rx" means doing a workout "as prescribed" with the exact movement and weight. Very often, I can't do that. One goal of doing the Open in 2016 was to log a Rx score all 5 weeks. A few things could de-rail me. For one, if muscle-ups showed up, I would be done...can't do them. Also, if hand-stand push-ups made an appearance as they always do, I'd be done. So for 16.1, so far so good! I did the prescribed weight and unlike in 2015, I could do chest-to-bar pull-ups. Boom!

Getting some singles in during the Scaled 16.2
As I mentioned previously, each Thursday night at 8pm was an "event" in our house. We gathered around our smartphones and TV and typically within seconds of the Open announcement, texts would begin flying amongst fellow CrossFitters about the workout, how dreadful it was, our predictions, etc. For 16.2, I am quite sure my face sunk into a frown as former Navy SEAL, Dave Castro gave the annoucement. 16.2 is a bit confusing to explain. Let me try: The 3 movements were: 25 toes-to-bar, 50 double-unders, and 15 squat cleans at 135lbs., but within 4 minutes. If an athlete could finish that in under 4min, they got another 4min block to do the same but increase the weight of the clean and do 2 less reps (e.g. 13 reps). The faster you move, the more time got banked, if that makes sense. It had a 20min total time limit. So for me, it just hit me with two of my major weaknesses, those being toes-to-bar and double-unders. I can do toes-to-bar and honestly, they were the best ever during this workout. I just can't string a bunch of them together. I can also do double-unders but only a few at a time. I can't do 50 unbroken like some folks...or even 5. So one thing I knew here: I wouldn't even get to the bar and my workout would be done in 4min. Just as expected, it was and I logged a score of 46: 25 toes-to-bar and 21 double-unders. One thing I like to do is work, a few minutes after finishing, I got right into the scaled version of this workout "just because." Instead of T2B, it was knee raises and instead of DUBs, it was singles, and the weight for the first round of power cleans was 95lbs. I did it and crushed it. Still, I got myself a Rx score for the week, albeit tiny, but I did. Hopefully in 2017, I will have those T2B on point and can somehow break through on double-unders. It's all about working on the weaknesses and getting stronger every day!

Trying for my first BMU!
16.3 was...well, a week to work on something totally brand new. Typically, the workout is a burner with very high intensity or it goes heavy. 16.2 went heavy with those squat cleans but 16.3 was lightweight with a movement I cannot do. It was a short 7min AMRAP of:

  • 10 Power Snatches at 75lbs
  • 3 Bar Muscle-Ups

The power snatches were no challenge at all. I've been working on this movement a lot lately and this was the easiest variant of it. Luckily, it was the first of two movements for this workout which allowed me to log a Rx score, keeping my Rx streak alive. So within about 35 seconds, I finished the snatches and then I spent the remaining 6 1/2 minutes trying so hard to get ONE bar muscle-up. The finish of this movement are arms extended and locked out with you above the bar. I got close...many times! However, it wasn't meant to be. I tried all throughout the next week to get one. Another thing to work on? You bet. I intend to keep focusing on weighted pull-ups and dips to get me stronger that "should" help getting my first BMU.

With light weight in 16.3, my prediction was something heavy for 16.4. My guess was a max effort on something like the clean and jerk or heavy deadlifts. I leaned towards deadlifts because we had a max clean and jerk in 2015. I was right...and this was my favorite workout of the 5 weeks. 16.4 was a 13min AMRAP of:

  • 55 deadlifts at 225lbs
  • 55 wall balls (20lbs)
  • 55 calories on the rower
  • 55 hand stand push-ups

Once again, Mr. Castro's choice of order benefited me. I can do HSPUs but not to the floor. Had they been the first movement, I would've been done before I started. As for those other movements, my deadlifts have been stronger than ever lately when I hit a new PR recently at 380lbs, I'm good at wall balls, and I'm one of the strongest rowers at my gym. My plan of attack for the deadlifts (which at 225 are decently heavy, especially given the high rep count) were a rep scheme of 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 with a 5 second rest between. That went well until the rep of 6 and I went 3-3. After that, I just got them done as efficiently as possible. The first few wall balls were...well, you would've thought I was drunk! My legs were jacked up but I quickly got a hold of them and did well. As for the rower, while I am a strong rower, those wall balls left me gassed. I finished the row in 10:48, leaving 2:12 to do "something." That 10:48 was a recorded time to help with the rankings so it definitely mattered. Castro knew a lot of people would hit a brick wall after the row. So instead of staring at my fellow athletes for 2:12, I repped out a bunch of hand-release push-ups, the scaled movement for part 4 of 16.4. They didn't count for anything as the Rx portion of the workout ended with my row. I logged a score of 165 reps! It was an awesome workout and I felt those deadlifts for about 3 days!

So for the prior 4 weeks, I couldn't shake the hunch that Castro would bring back an old workout from 2014. We weren't yet doing CrossFit in March 2014 but it ended with a killer workout of thrusters and bar facing burpees. To date, no CrossFit Open has been void of thrusters so 16.5 would surely have them, or so we thought. BUT, 16.1 had bar facing burpees already so would he repeat? The big Thursday announcement was broadcast LIVE from The Ranch in California where the original Games took place. As he stood there staring into the camera with his trademark smirk on his face, he said: "16.5 is....14.5." And there we had it. No time cap, just plenty of suck. 16.5 was the only thing between me and doing the entire Open Rx. 16.5...or 14.5 is:
21 thrusters at 95lbs, 21 bar-facing burpees, then 18 and 18, and so on all the way down to 3. 21-18-15-12-9-6-3. In all, 84 crushing thrusters and 84 bar facing burpees. Those require you to do a burpee facing the bar then jump over the bar (both feet leaving the ground at the same time) and do the next burpee and so on. Thrusters are yet another weakness for me. Upper body strength is far better these days but flexibility is still a struggle. That many thrusters at 95lbs would certainly be very rough...but I did it. I'll never forget my wife's comment after the workout...and keep in mind she is a nurse:

"I thought you were having a cardiac event during the round of 6...but I knew you'd say something if you were in trouble." 

It did suck...for 23min, 41sec. But proud of myself for doing it and even more so? I was proud of my wife because she did it Rx as well. She almost didn't even walk into the gym that morning!

Overall, I'm thrilled with my performance in the 2016 Open. I am far stronger than a year ago and I'm already looking forward to what 2017 will hold. Here is where I ended up both in the Central East division and worldwide amongst Men, ages 40-44. Am I happy? Big time. I'm especially thrilled because heading into week 5, I was over 9,000 worldwide and in the 600s in the region. I essentially jumped 1500 athletes worldwide with my effort in 16.5! Plus, being in the top half is really enough for me. I'm very happy with it.

The icing on the cake for the 2016 Open is that my wife did it all, and half of it Rx. She wanted nothing to do with it in 2015 but her confidence and strength has sky-rocketed over the past 10 months. She has a passion and drive like never before and she crushed it. I couldn't be happier and more proud of her!

After 16.5, our small community at CrossFit 881 spent a few hours together, grilling some chicken and steak, enjoying some comfort food and even a few beverages. Great friends, quality coaching, and "embracing the suck" together. The 2016 Open is a wrap and now us 99%+ of CrossFit athletes will glue ourselves to LIVE YouTube streams as the Regionals kick off on May 13th all over the world and then the Games form July 19-24 in Carson, CA where the fittest man and woman will be crowned. Now get on your #beastmode and get to work!

CrossFit 881 Family post-16.5